Moomintroll wakes up with a start, shooting up into a sitting position as he tries to forget the nightmare he just had. He rubs at his eyes as he tries to blink the image away, but he can't stop seeing it.
The night had brought with it a version of Snufkin that he hoped to never see. At first, it was like any other dream with him, warm and comforting as he played his spring tunes and Moomin sat by his side listening. They were sat just at the edge of the river and when Snufkin stopped playing they talked, but he didn’t sound like himself. His usually deep and robust voice was oddly shaky, and he kept stopping to stare at the water in silence. And then the dream took a sharp turn as Snufkin, or who was supposed to be Snufkin yelled, “The river’s rising!” reaching for Moomin’s outstretched paw just as the water lapped at his boots. Moomin had grabbed his paw and pulled, but in an instant Snufkin was swept up by the current, struggling to stay above it as the sudden waves swallowed him up. Moomin stared out at the water, waiting for Snufkin to pop back up, but the moment never arrived The only thing remaining of him being his wide-brimmed hat floating on the current.
Moomin rubs at his eyes again, barely holding back his tears as he replays the dream in his head. He knows Snufkin is probably fine, sleeping peacefully in his tent, but just the idea of losing him is enough to ruin his night. He lays back in bed, trying one last time to wish the awful images away with no luck. What if the river really did rise? What if in his sleep it had eaten up Snufkin’s tent and taken his best friend with it? The possibility is enough to draw him out of bed and give up on sleeping for the night as he walks over to the window. He quickly pushes it open, climbing down the ladder and all but sprinting towards Snufkin’s tent, relieved to see it still standing just beyond the bridge.
“Snufkin! Snufkin!” he practically yells once he gets there, slightly out of breath.
The opening of the tent is closed, but it only takes a second for Snufkin to pop out, staring at him with sleep filled eyes, “Moomintroll?”
His voice is soft and muddled with sleep, his chestnut hair ruffled a little. Before he can stop himself, Moomin goes into a spiel about his nightmare, but leaves out crucial details about Snufkin’s involvement, preferring not to admit just how afraid it made him.
“I couldn’t get back to sleep afterward,” he says after explaining.
Snufkin is silent for a moment, before sighing as a tired smile graces his face, “Well, we’re both awake now. Let’s go on a walk.”
Moomin smiles weakly, “Not too close to the river though, right?”
“No, of course not.”
Snufkin puts his hat on and grabs a lantern as they go into the forest. Moomin is grateful for the silence around them as they walk, happy just to have him near. Part of him wants to ask him to play his spring tune, but he knows that would wake up the whole forest so he keeps it to himself. He’s so focused on simply being with Snufkin that he doesn’t realize how far they are from Moominhouse until they’re approaching a hill that overlooks the valley. He follows behind Snufkin as he walks closer and closer to the edge. Moomin is nearly about to pull him back when he stops and takes a seat in the grass. He sets the lantern down but turns it off to leave them with just the light from the moon.
“You can see the stars best from here,” Snufkin says, looking up at the sky.
Moomin follows his gaze, gasping at the image before him. The sky is littered with sparkling stars, clear enough that he can make out shapes in them if he tried. Snufkin lays down, removing his hat and placing it on his chest. Moomin lays next to him, feeling the coolness of the grass press into him even through his fur. The nightmare seems far away as he stares at the night sky, the only sounds being crickets and the light breeze blowing through the trees by them. He glances at Snufkin, expecting to see his eyes closed but catching his gaze instead. He smiles softly at him and Moomin has to turn away, a heat spreading across his face as he does.
He clears his throat, eyes trained at the sky, “You know the constellations, right Snufkin?”
“Mhm. What about them?” his voice is soft, a hint of sleepiness in his tone.
“Which one’s your favorite?”
There’s a moment of silence as Snufkin thinks. Moomin rests his paws at his sides, a strange electric feeling going through him when Snufkin’s paw briefly brushes against it, just as he points at the sky and draws imaginary lines.
“See there? That one. Columba.”
Moomin can’t see it, but he follows Snufkin’s paws as he traces lines between stars, making the vaguest outline of an animal.
“The Dove, actually,” he pauses, “It always makes me think of you, Moomin.”
His heart does a flip as he pictures Snufkin on his travels in the winter, alone and yet thinking of him anytime the stars come out. He knows it’s selfish, but he secretly hopes that each time Snufkin traces a dove in the night sky, he misses Moomin just as much as he misses him.
He tries to see it more clearly, but can only make out a vague outline, “...It’s very pretty.”
“That it is,” says Snufkin, looking at him and smiling gently. He closes his eyes then, sighing as he seemingly starts drifting off to sleep.
The cool breeze brushes past them, particularly strong as it picks up Snufkin’s hat and it tumbles off his chest, carried into the sky. Moomin gets up before he can, chasing after it into the bramble of trees past the hill they’ve been resting on. He hears Snufkin’s footsteps behind him as he runs after the hat, trying to snatch it out of the air but missing. He’s barely aware of the logs and other forestry covering the ground when he trips, his snout hitting the dirt roughly. Snufkin jogs past him, the hat now getting lower as the breeze slows. Moomin stands, following him while rubbing gingerly at his hurt snout, which he’s sure is now dirty.
“Snufkin!” he yells after him, watching as the hat finally falls--right into the steady stream of the familiar river.
Moomin’s blood runs cold as Snufkin approaches the water. He can’t tell if it’s any higher than usual, but the current is moving fast.
“Get away from there!” he calls out to him, but Snufkin ignores him and steps into the river, pursuing his hat.
His nightmare slams back into him, the image of a drowning Snufkin stuck to his eyelids again. He stands at the edge of the water, nearly crying as he looks out and momentarily can’t spot the mumrik anywhere, not even his wide-brimmed hat. He practically jumps out of his body when he feels a hand on his shoulder, looking up to see Snufkin.
“Moomintroll, what’s wrong?” he asks, hat on his head as he lets go of Moomin’s shoulder.
He simply responds by pulling him into a tight hug, blinking away tears, “Don’t ever do that again, okay? For a second I thought- I thought I’d lost you, Snufkin!”
He hugs him back lightly, “What? Lost me? Are you alright, Moomintroll?”
He pulls away as the nightmare, while fading, still lingers in his mind. He isn't sure he wants him to know the details, considering that the last thing he wants is for Snufkin to feel any kind of guilt, even for something that happened in a dream. Still, he knows he can’t keep it to himself at this point.
“... It’s about my nightmare,” he confesses, wringing his paws together as he does.
“Oh?” responds Snufkin, simply waiting for an explanation.
Moomin tells him what he left out, unable to meet his eyes the entire time. He sits down as he finishes, Snufkin doing the same.
“And when I couldn't see you in the water...I thought I’d lost you, just like in the dream,” he explains.
He hears Snufkin sigh as he rests his paw on top of Moomin's, causing the heat from before to come back to his face. He looks up at him to see him smiling softly, warmly.
“There’s no need to worry,” he squeezes his paw, “I’m fine, Moomee.”
Moomin’s mind goes blank at the nickname, but he doesn’t pull his hand away from Snufkin’s, only moves it so he can squeeze back.
“Are you sure?” he asks.
Snufkin nods silently and they sit by the water, still holding paws. Moomin yawns, finally feeling his lost sleep set in as he calms down. Snufkin maintains his silence, eyes darting from Moomin and then to the trees around them, which are starting to lose their leaves.
"... That dream of yours wouldn’t have anything to do with winter arriving soon, would it?” he asks abruptly.
"No! Well maybe, but I don’t have control over that," he says, realizing that all he could think about recently was how Snufkin would be going soon, and how much he would miss him.
He sighs, frowning lightly, "I have to go Moomin, when winter arrives, I mean. You know that."
"I know, I know, but I’ll still miss you a lot.”
Moomin squeezes Snufkin’s paw again, only for his face to burn fiercely when Snufkin intertwines their fingers.
"You'll be asleep the whole time, it'll be spring before you know it."
He sighs, "I hope so."
Snufkin glances at him, eyes falling to his snout.
"Moomintroll, there's dirt on your-"
"I know," he says, putting a hand over it, "I fell when I was chasing after your hat."
He nods, "I've got it."
Snufkin licks his sleeve and rubs it against Moomin's snout, trying to remove the grime. The fabric tickles a little and he laughs lightly, pushing Snufkin's hand away.
“There. As handsome as ever,” he says, smiling at him.
Moomin’s face burns, and he can’t help but look away as Snufkin looks at him and only him. He stumbles to say something coherent, but the compliment and their hands still intertwined are clouding his thoughts. He doesn’t know if it’s something in the air, or if it has to do with the way he nervously woke him up and worried him, but he hopes that whatever has caused Snufkin to pay him so much attention never goes away. That he’ll hold his paw again and again and never stop comparing him to a bird made up of stars. He even hopes without hope that he won’t go when winter finally arrives, and they’ll sleep the season away, together. The realization hits him then, and he really can’t look at him as he thinks that, yes, Snufkin means more to him than a regular friend should. But he’s holding his paw and just called him handsome only moments ago, and Moomin knows he’s got nothing to hide when it comes to him.
“Snufkin?” he says, looking back up at him. His soft, brown eyes meeting his makes something in his stomach flutter.
Moomin doesn’t know how else to let him know how he feels, so he simply leans in and nuzzles his snout against Snufkin’s nose, one hand resting on his shoulder as he does. When he pulls back, he isn’t expecting to see the confused expression on Snufkin’s face and it pulls him out of the moment long enough to realize that he should’ve given him a warning, or asked. Suddenly he isn’t even sure if Snufkin feels the same way, thinking that maybe he was just being extra friendly and Moomin misread it.
“Is your snout itchy? Does it hurt? You could just tell me,” he says, letting go of Moomin’s paw in favor of putting his on the sides of Moomin’s face and inspecting his snout.
Moomin realizes what his confusion was and can’t help the way his face burns hotter, probably blushing brighter as he explains.
“N-no… it was a kiss, Snufkin.”
“A moomin kiss.” he says, looking anywhere that isn’t Snufkin’s face.
“Oh. Oh. I see,” he pauses briefly, thinking, “We should do a mumrik kiss as well, then.”
“A mumrik kiss?” asks Moomin, finally looking at him again. His cheeks are tinted a soft pink that deepens as he continues.
“Well, if we’re going to be kissing.” he says, a small smile blooming across his lips.
Moomin’s heart does another flip, picking up speed at the implication that Snufkin is fine kissing him again.
“Right, okay," he responds quietly, certain that his face is bright red by now.
Neither of them say anything as Snufkin leans in closer and connects their lips in a kiss, soft and sweet. The sensation is different from a moomin kiss, but just as pleasant. Moomin finds himself leaning forward when they seperate, wishing it had lasted longer. His eyes widen when he sees Snufkin’s face, which is a deep shade of red as he smiles sweetly at him. He barely gets a chance to process it when he nuzzles into his cheek, moving his paws from his face to wrap them around him and pull him closer. Moomin does the same, wrapping his arms around his waist, heart finally slowing down despite his body feeling like it’s floating.
He speaks just as Snufkin rests his head on his shoulder, his hat falling off as he does.
“...Can we do that again?” Moomin asks.
Snufkin laughs lightly and looks up at him, his face back to the light pink color, “Of course, Moomee.”
As they kiss again, the approaching winter and Snufkin leaving are the last things on his mind. The nightmare from earlier quickly becoming a distant memory.